Editor's Note

Don't Stop Moving

HME providers grew a lot over the past several years. They must maintain their momentum.

A body in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. That’s from Newton’s First Law of Motion, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it in terms of where the industry currently finds itself. We’re at a point where the industry is now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel after years of struggling, and that’s leaving me feeling a little unsettled.

What do physics and the business of providing home medical equipment have to do with each other? Well, at first blush maybe not a lot, but I have a personal relationship with Mr. Newton’s First Law.

Lesson Learned

At a fairly young age — early teens — I got into backpacking. It’s an amazing pursuit for a young person. Provided you get the right instruction and know what you’re doing, there is nothing more amazing that spending some quality time with Mother Nature. It’s an instant reminder of how magnificent this world and everything around it really are.

But it can also be downright exhausting. Humping a 15- or 20-pound pack up a seemingly endless series of switchbacks in order to get higher and deeper into the mountains can absolutely beat you into submission. At the base of the climb, you start out chipper and confident, completely assured you’ll soar right up the ascent. By half-way up — and perhaps earlier — you start considering thoughts of turning around, as the top appears further and further away. And when you finally get to the top, the only thing you want to do is sit and take a break.

Which is exactly the last thing you want to do. One minute resting will easily turn into five and then 30. In fact, unless anyone kicks you free from your spot, there’s a good chance you will wind up sleeping on the hillside.

But if you keep that body in motion? Well, it’ll stay in motion. I learned early on that you need to keep on moving and pushing, no matter what, and especially when the path is easy.

Which leads me back to the industry. We just crested one heck of a hill. After several years of suffering through competitive bidding mayhem, getting buried by audits, and dealing with a variety of other hassles, the industry is now looking at a legislative and regulatory landscape that is looking a lot more hospitable. The long years of fighting might finally be over. (For more details on that, read “Fingers Crossed.” It features a variety of experts who will tell you how the situation has changed and what the industry plans to do next.)

No Rest for the Weary

And that’s what worries me: The industry has worked extremely hard to redefine itself throughout its struggles, and in the process it has become more robust and resourceful.

Businesses that had once depended on Medicare for 80 percent of their revenues figured out how to diversify their revenue streams through opportunities such as retail sales, private payer insurance and facilities-based care, so that they have much more sustainable cash flow.

Businesses once using cobbled-together billing procedures, bloated inventory and inefficient workflows leveraged the capabilities of information technology to create highly efficient businesses with extremely low cost overheads and billing procedures that ensure fast funding.

Business that were struggling to find ways to provide quality care in the face of winnowing reimbursement started using patient monitoring to not only improve outcomes but reinforce their referral relationships.

Despite all the trouble HME providers faced during the years leading up to this welcome reprieve, they not only fought for their businesses and patients on Capitol Hill, but they created much more agile, resilient and sustainable business models in the process. Now that the industry might finally be seeing an end to an arduous climb, for pity’s sake do not stop to take a break. Now is the time to keep innovating, building and growing. Let’s stay in motion.

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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